CVBs need to start seeing themselves as customer representatives instead of being “official mouthpieces” lest they start losing their credibility, said Gary Grimmer, CEO of convention industry consultancy GainingEdge.
Speaking to TTGmice e-Weekly on the sidelines of the ASEAN MICE Forum on Monday, Grimmer who is the former chairman of the board of the International Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau and former chairman of the Business Events Council of Australia, said: “I think a key (credibility) issue is that most CVBs are structured to be a representative (of their destination and suppliers). When CVBs represent the suppliers, they will always be protecting the supplier’s reputation regardless of the quality of service delivery.”
Providing an example of how CVBs can embrace the role of a customer representative, Grimmer said: “If I were representing a bureau, I would encourage people to visit my website and critique the supplier’s service level. It is only then will CVBs be seen as being more transparent and credible.”
He added: “Suppliers are going to get angry when they receive bad reviews but that is the only way to force them to improve their services, or risk going out of business.”
Hugo Slimbrouck, director of strategic partnerships with Ovation Global DMC, also lamented that CVBs were “not working sufficiently together” with the DMC community which he said were the real experts on the ground.
Sharing this opinion during the opening panel session of the ASEAN MICE Forum, Slimbrouck said: “Very often CVBs would have the whole event plan drawn up on their own, then approach the DMC for sponsorship or to be part of the programme.
“But I do not wait for the CVBs (to come to me); I do the opposite. I would organise the event and then go to the CVB and tell them to do something with what I have.”
Nevertheless, Grimmer underlined the importance of CVBs, saying that “they are vital as they are our hope to developing government support”.
Citing Singapore as an example of a country with a strong CVB, he added: “I like Singapore because it is an example of a modern nation with barely any natural resources. Singapore more than anybody else understands how vitally important it is to have conventions and exhibitions (contributing to its) economy.
“Singapore in general has a reputation for great service and (the Singapore Tourism Board) can continue to encourage radical transparency and move towards engaging communication with consumers beyond providing services to meeting planners.”
Additional reporting by Mimi Hudoyo